CDC technical workshop in the European Parliament on the capabilities and limitations of technology in identifying terrorist content online

CDC technical workshop in the European Parliament on the capabilities and limitations of technology in identifying terrorist content online

5 March 2019

On the morning of the Tuesday 26th February 2019, the Cyber Data Coalition organised a technical workshop in the European Parliament on the capabilities and limitations of technology in identifying terrorist content online in the context of the recent proposal on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The breakfast workshop was kindly hosted by Julie Ward MEP, the rapporteur for the European Parliament’s CULT opinion on the file.

The CDC set out to discuss and consider the use of technology in identifying terrorist content online, as well as highlight the capabilities and limitations thereof. The meeting was attended by representatives from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), EUROPOL’s  EU Internet Referral Unit, as well as from the European Parliament.

The discussions traversed an array of considerations; from the role European SMEs and their technologies have to play in combating terrorist content online, the challenges encountered in Europe when combating terrorist content, and the changing face of the digital regulatory ecosystem ahead of the upcoming European legislative period.

It was submitted that there is huge potential for European SMEs to contribute to the fight against terrorist content online. There is an opportunity to promote innovation in the European Union by investing in local technologies which can analyse and identify harmful content. CDC members confirmed that such technologies exist among European SMEs however, in order for this technology to be effective, it must be inputted with good and relevant data. Given the current dominance of multinational social media companies, such input can be difficult to achieve. The CDC encouraged the development of data sharing undertakings which would allow them to test their technologies in order to create more effective and efficient programmes which could identify, and potentially measure the dissemination of terrorist content.

The updating of the regulatory ecosystem in the European Union will create new challenges in terms of the liability of companies when it comes to the issue of illegal content online. The CDC noted that there are other examples of regulatory regimes which are effective in removing other types of illegal content such as with Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). There are lessons to be learned by such examples. The facilitation of the reporting from citizens is another example that has been effective in combating spam and could be used in identify terrorist content.

We believe that the use of automated methods in fighting this type of content can be effective and can also be moulded around the framework of the eCommerce Directive and the Audio-Visual Media Directive, fully respecting the fundamental rights of users while also protecting the public from the dissemination of terrorist content and indeed other forms are harmful materials online.

Members were encouraged to see the willingness of both officials from the Commission and Parliament in coming together with European SMEs and discuss the impact that they can have in ensuring that harmful content is identified and removed from the internet.

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